With the glittering New York City evening skyline as a backdrop, the Center for Reproductive Rights hosted its third annual benefit Gala on October 29 at Jazz at Lincoln Center.
More than 300 guests gathered to celebrate the Center’s accomplishments and affirm their support for the organization as it undertakes the considerable challenges ahead.
The mood at the event was especially celebratory, coming just weeks after the Center achieved a stunning victory at the U.S. Supreme Court, allowing 13 critical reproductive health care clinics in Texas to reopen.
The evening kicked off with a video offering a glimpse of the “pivotal moment” confronting advocates of women’s health and equality around the world today. From challenging forced pregnancy testing in Tanzania to defending the last remaining abortion clinic in Mississippi, the film demonstrated how the Center is making a difference in real women’s lives.
The Gala honored two women of formidable global impact: The Hon. Louise Arbour, leader of some of the most significant international human rights efforts, from the tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, to the UN High Commission for Human Rights, and Joanna Coles, editor in chief of Cosmopolitan, the world’s largest women’s magazine, and editorial director of Hearst Magazines.
Arbour underlined the evening’s theme, describing the pivotal moment we face concerning women’s fundamental rights at the global level: “After years of expectations that real, substantive equality was achievable, we are witnessing a resurgence of attacks on women’s entitlement to reproductive health services, attacks that compromise our fundamental right to life, to liberty and to security.”
In the face of these threats, Arbour said, the Center has carried out “spectacular” work protecting rights before national courts and in international venues.
Arbour was introduced by Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), lead sponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act, a historic piece of legislation designed to guarantee every woman’s access to safe, legal abortion care without political interference.
Joanna Coles spoke about the crucial difference that reproductive freedom makes in a woman’s life: “Practically speaking, the single most important economic decision a woman will make is when she has her first child. If you get pregnant by mistake and you have your first child at 17, your life will turn out very differently than if you have your first child at 27 or 37.”
Coles was introduced by Dr. Willie J. Parker, one of two physicians who travel to Mississippi to provide care at the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the sole remaining clinic offering abortion services in that state. Parker is represented by the Center in the case challenging the state’s clinic shutdown law.
Other guests included Princess Sarah Zeid of Jordan, fashion designer Nanette Lepore, and actress Aida Turturro of the HBO TV series The Sopranos.
Staff circulated iPads on which guests could add their names to the more than 300,000 who have signed the Center’s pledge telling politicians: “My word is the last word on my reproductive health care.”
The energy and momentum of the evening translated into $1 million raised to continue the Center’s groundbreaking work improving and protecting every woman’s fundamental right to quality reproductive care, no matter where she lives.